“It has been said something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.”
– Chaos Theory

If you Google for long enough, you may have the good fortune of coming across a phrase that will both intrigue and confuse you: how to fix a butterfly’s wings. At first it may come across as some strange trivia or the type of hypothetical musing only conducive to conversation after a few drinks.

As it turns out, the skill is more practical than it first appears. In California in 2007, a couple looked up that same phrase and got to work after finding a monarch that couldn’t fly. The pair, knowing nothing about etymology, researched and built a splint out of wood for the wing. They nursed it back to health and after studying migratory patterns, set it free.

I tell this story for a very particular purpose; not to warm your heart (although it certainly got me), or to talk about the very real threat of butterfly extinction, but instead to illustrate a point about apathy. See, it’s very easy to point out what someone who doesn’t care looks like but I think it’s much harder to point at what passion or empathy really is. Is it going to a rally? Is it donating money to charity? Is it thoughtfully disagreeing with someone? The answer is yes, and the answer is no. In a world filled with complexity and discouragement, it’s very hard to prove yourself as a concerned citizen.

It’s very clear that many people, not just the young, have grown disillusioned with politics and many would say rightfully so. Things never seem to change, and so that rally looks more and more like a nice way to waste an afternoon.

Looking through catalogues of charities and news reports can easily make our contributions seem small and even worthless, particularly when corruption is added into the mix. Finally, even open debates seem to change few minds. In short, the young often feel as though they are licensed to be apathetic.

I agree, regretfully, that the bigger picture is often harder to manipulate or change for the better. What puts all of this into perspective, though, is a broken butterfly wing. As small and delicate, as meaningless and inconsequential as most would see this barely conscious insect, two grown humans took the time to fix what they had the power to fix – and this is the real bait and switch, the real devil of apathy. It makes us feel powerless because we can’t move the earth; yet, when we have the opportunity to change a fragment of it for the better, we’re still jaded and wrongly convinced of our impotency.

Few realize that humanism, passion and empathy are not measured in miles but in inches, so that even an act as seemingly insignificant as saving a single butterfly can give birth to something much bigger.